Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Learning to blend letter sounds

After Ryan learned the letter names and the letter sounds, he started blending the letter sounds to read simple words. To be honest, we did not expect him to start doing that until he was much older. He really surprised us when he showed us that he could.

Here, I'll share some of the items we have around the house that relate to blending. I would also say that, if your child is not familiar with the letter names and the letter sounds, please don't bother him with blending. He's not going to understand it, he's not going to enjoy it and he's just going to be stressed out and turned off.

I should also say that we don't sit down with Ryan and go through words with him. It happens spontaneously and naturally throughout the day while we are doing other activities. We don't have any structured lessons or anything like that.

Ok, the best thing to do is of course to talk, read and sing to your child as much as possible, to let him familiarise himself with the different sounds in words. I can't emphasise this enough - this is the best thing you can do and the thing that you should do.

Off and on we will sound out a word for him - for example, if we see a dog, we will talk about the dog, what it's doing, what sound it makes, whether it looks like our dog at home, etc. We will sound out the word "DOG" for him - /d/, /o/, /g/ and then we will blend the sounds for him. We do it both orally and also with written words when we see words in the carpark, at the supermarket, on the way to the playground, etc. We seldom do it while reading a story as it can be disruptive.

Sometimes Ryan will say a letter or a letter sound and I will build on that. So if he says "/b/!", I might say, "/b/ for ...?" He might say ball, then I might ask, "Yes, /b/ for ball! Any other /b/ words?" Then we'll go on and on for as long as he's interested.

We have "mobile" letters everywhere - alphabet biscuits, alphabet blocks, alphabet stickers, etc. All can be used to put words together. We also have a set of giant upper and lower case alphabet stamps.

We bought a DVD from Leapfrog called the Talking Words Factory. It's fun and it demonstrates simple blending in a way that is easy to understand. It is a sequel of sorts to the Letter Factory although you don't have to watch the first to watch this one. You just have to know the letter names and sounds. Ryan absolutely loves it. I should mention that it only teaches basic blending using word families so if you are looking for something comprehensive or if you prefer other methods of blending, this may not be up your alley.

Much much later, we bought another DVD called Letter Sounds by Rock 'N' Learn. I have to warn you that this DVD is quite "dry" compared to Leapfrog's entertaining material. It is actually for children 4-7 years old who are ready for phonics. If your child is not familiar with letter names and sounds, he's not going to last through the whole DVD. Ryan does enjoy it but he still much prefers the Leapfrog material.

We also have an iPhone app called Word Wagon by Duck Duck Moose. The blending at the phonic blending level is not as clear as it could be, but I think Ryan just enjoys fitting the letters into the slots. I would not recommend this for learning blending, but if your child already knows some blending, it's not a bad app. It also teaches letters and spelling.

In this photo, Ryan is playing with Leapfrog's Fridge Words Magnetic Word Builder. It was a birthday gift from a dear friend. We put it up as soon as we got it, when Ryan was still learning his letter names and sounds. It didn't get much love and attention until fairly recently. Anyway, as you can see from the photo, Ryan can use it to create CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant).

We have some simple books to help with blending. I won't mention them just yet, because we are not using them much. We are still doing our usual reading routine - reading aloud to Ryan and just enjoying the story and the pictures, and we'll probably continue with that for a long time.

That's about it, really. Although Ryan can read simple words (simple blends and some sight words), we are not really focusing on blending right now. We are still concentrating on early literacy and pre-reading skills, to give Ryan a solid and strong foundation for reading, plus we still believe that we don't have to rush into learning to read at his age.

[This post also appears in our Learning at Home section.]


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